Tag Archives: talks
The upcoming US presidential election seems set to be something of a mess—to put it lightly. Covid-19 will likely deter millions from voting in person, and mail-in voting isn’t shaping up to be much more promising. This all comes at a time when political tensions are running higher than they have in decades, issues that shouldn’t be political (like mask-wearing) have become highly politicized, and Americans are dramatically divided along party lines.
So the last thing we need right now is yet another wrench in the spokes of democracy, in the form of disinformation; we all saw how that played out in 2016, and it wasn’t pretty. For the record, disinformation purposely misleads people, while misinformation is simply inaccurate, but without malicious intent. While there’s not a ton tech can do to make people feel safe at crowded polling stations or up the Postal Service’s budget, tech can help with disinformation, and Microsoft is trying to do so.
On Tuesday the company released two new tools designed to combat disinformation, described in a blog post by VP of Customer Security and Trust Tom Burt and Chief Scientific Officer Eric Horvitz.
The first is Microsoft Video Authenticator, which is made to detect deepfakes. In case you’re not familiar with this wicked byproduct of AI progress, “deepfakes” refers to audio or visual files made using artificial intelligence that can manipulate peoples’ voices or likenesses to make it look like they said things they didn’t. Editing a video to string together words and form a sentence someone didn’t say doesn’t count as a deepfake; though there’s manipulation involved, you don’t need a neural network and you’re not generating any original content or footage.
The Authenticator analyzes videos or images and tells users the percentage chance that they’ve been artificially manipulated. For videos, the tool can even analyze individual frames in real time.
Deepfake videos are made by feeding hundreds of hours of video of someone into a neural network, “teaching” the network the minutiae of the person’s voice, pronunciation, mannerisms, gestures, etc. It’s like when you do an imitation of your annoying coworker from accounting, complete with mimicking the way he makes every sentence sound like a question and his eyes widen when he talks about complex spreadsheets. You’ve spent hours—no, months—in his presence and have his personality quirks down pat. An AI algorithm that produces deepfakes needs to learn those same quirks, and more, about whoever the creator’s target is.
Given enough real information and examples, the algorithm can then generate its own fake footage, with deepfake creators using computer graphics and manually tweaking the output to make it as realistic as possible.
The scariest part? To make a deepfake, you don’t need a fancy computer or even a ton of knowledge about software. There are open-source programs people can access for free online, and as far as finding video footage of famous people—well, we’ve got YouTube to thank for how easy that is.
Microsoft’s Video Authenticator can detect the blending boundary of a deepfake and subtle fading or greyscale elements that the human eye may not be able to see.
In the blog post, Burt and Horvitz point out that as time goes by, deepfakes are only going to get better and become harder to detect; after all, they’re generated by neural networks that are continuously learning from and improving themselves.
Microsoft’s counter-tactic is to come in from the opposite angle, that is, being able to confirm beyond doubt that a video, image, or piece of news is real (I mean, can McDonald’s fries cure baldness? Did a seal slap a kayaker in the face with an octopus? Never has it been so imperative that the world know the truth).
A tool built into Microsoft Azure, the company’s cloud computing service, lets content producers add digital hashes and certificates to their content, and a reader (which can be used as a browser extension) checks the certificates and matches the hashes to indicate the content is authentic.
Finally, Microsoft also launched an interactive “Spot the Deepfake” quiz it developed in collaboration with the University of Washington’s Center for an Informed Public, deepfake detection company Sensity, and USA Today. The quiz is intended to help people “learn about synthetic media, develop critical media literacy skills, and gain awareness of the impact of synthetic media on democracy.”
The impact Microsoft’s new tools will have remains to be seen—but hey, we’re glad they’re trying. And they’re not alone; Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube have all taken steps to ban and remove deepfakes from their sites. The AI Foundation’s Reality Defender uses synthetic media detection algorithms to identify fake content. There’s even a coalition of big tech companies teaming up to try to fight election interference.
One thing is for sure: between a global pandemic, widespread protests and riots, mass unemployment, a hobbled economy, and the disinformation that’s remained rife through it all, we’re going to need all the help we can get to make it through not just the election, but the rest of the conga-line-of-catastrophes year that is 2020.
Image Credit: Darius Bashar on Unsplash Continue reading
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events!):
RoboBusiness 2019 – October 1-3, 2019 – Santa Clara, Calif., USA
ISRR 2019 – October 6-10, 2019 – Hanoi, Vietnam
Ro-Man 2019 – October 14-18, 2019 – New Delhi, India
Humanoids 2019 – October 15-17, 2019 – Toronto, Canada
ARSO 2019 – October 31-1, 2019 – Beijing, China
ROSCon 2019 – October 31-1, 2019 – Macau
IROS 2019 – November 4-8, 2019 – Macau
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.
You’ve almost certainly seen the new Spot and Atlas videos from Boston Dynamics, if for no other reason than we posted about Spot’s commercial availability earlier this week. But what, are we supposed to NOT include them in Video Friday anyway? Psh! Here you go:
[ Boston Dynamics ]
Eight deadly-looking robots. One Giant Nut trophy. Tonight is the BattleBots season finale, airing on Discovery, 8 p.m. ET, or check your local channels.
[ BattleBots ]
Speaking of battling robots… Having giant robots fight each other is one of those things that sounds really great in theory, but doesn’t work out so well in reality. And sadly, MegaBots is having to deal with reality, which means putting their giant fighting robot up on eBay.
As of Friday afternoon, the current bid is just over $100,000 with a week to go.
[ MegaBots ]
Michigan Engineering has figured out the secret formula to getting 150,000 views on YouTube: drone plus nail gun.
[ Michigan Engineering ]
Michael Burke from the University of Edinburgh writes:
We’ve been learning to scoop grapefruit segments using a PR2, by “feeling” the difference between peel and pulp. We use joint torque measurements to predict the probability that the knife is in the peel or pulp, and use this to apply feedback control to a nominal cutting trajectory learned from human demonstration, so that we remain in a position of maximum uncertainty about which medium we’re cutting. This means we slice along the boundary between the two mediums. It works pretty well!
[ Paper ] via [ Robust Autonomy and Decisions Group ]
Hey look, it’s Jan with eight EMYS robot heads. Hi, Jan! Hi, EMYSes!
[ EMYS ]
We’re putting the KRAKEN Arm through its paces, demonstrating that it can unfold from an Express Rack locker on the International Space Station and access neighboring lockers in NASA’s FabLab system to enable transfer of materials and parts between manufacturing, inspection, and storage stations. The KRAKEN arm will be able to change between multiple ’end effector’ tools such as grippers and inspection sensors – those are in development so they’re not shown in this video.
[ Tethers Unlimited ]
UBTECH’s Alpha Mini Robot with Smart Robot’s “Maatje” software is offering healthcare service to children at Praktijk Intraverte Multidisciplinary Institution in Netherlands.
This institution is using Alpha Mini in counseling children’s behavior. Alpha Mini can move and talk to children and offers games and activities to stimulate and interact with them. Alpha Mini talks, helps and motivates children thereby becoming more flexible in society.
[ UBTECH ]
Some impressive work here from Anusha Nagabandi, Kurt Konoglie, Sergey Levine, Vikash Kumar at Google Brain, training a dexterous multi-fingered hand to do that thing with two balls that I’m really bad at.
Dexterous multi-fingered hands can provide robots with the ability to flexibly perform a wide range of manipulation skills. However, many of the more complex behaviors are also notoriously difficult to control: Performing in-hand object manipulation, executing finger gaits to move objects, and exhibiting precise fine motor skills such as writing, all require finely balancing contact forces, breaking and reestablishing contacts repeatedly, and maintaining control of unactuated objects. In this work, we demonstrate that our method of online planning with deep dynamics models (PDDM) addresses both of these limitations; we show that improvements in learned dynamics models, together with improvements in online model-predictive control, can indeed enable efficient and effective learning of flexible contact-rich dexterous manipulation skills — and that too, on a 24-DoF anthropomorphic hand in the real world, using just 2-4 hours of purely real-world data to learn to simultaneously coordinate multiple free-floating objects.
[ PDDM ]
CMU’s Ballbot has a deceptively light touch that’s ideal for leading people around.
A paper on this has been submitted to IROS 2019.
[ CMU ]
The Autonomous Robots Lab at the University of Nevada is sharing some of the work they’ve done on path planning and exploration for aerial robots during the DARPA SubT Challenge.
[ Autonomous Robots Lab ]
More proof that anything can be a drone if you staple some motors to it. Even 32 feet of styrofoam insulation.
[ YouTube ]
Whatever you think of military drones, we can all agree that they look cool.
[ Boeing ]
I appreciate the fact that iCub has eyelids, I really do, but sometimes, it ends up looking kinda sleepy in research videos.
[ EPFL LASA ]
Video shows autonomous flight of a lightweight aerial vehicle outdoors and indoors on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University. The vehicle is equipped with limited onboard sensing from a front-facing camera and a proximity sensor. The aerial autonomy is enabled by utilizing a 3D prior map built in Step 1.
[ CMU ]
The Stanford Space Robotics Facility allows researchers to test innovative guidance and navigation algorithms on a realistic frictionless, underactuated system.
[ Stanford ASL ]
In this video, Ian and CP discuss Misty’s many capabilities including robust locomotion, obstacle avoidance, 3D mapping/SLAM, face detection and recognition, sound localization, hardware extensibility, photo and video capture, and programmable personality. They also talk about some of the skills he’s built using these capabilities (and others) and how those skills can be expanded upon by you.
[ Misty Robotics ]
This week’s CMU RI Seminar comes from Aaron Parness at Caltech and NASA JPL, on “Robotic Grippers for Planetary Applications.”
The previous generation of NASA missions to the outer solar system discovered salt water oceans on Europa and Enceladus, each with more liquid water than Earth – compelling targets to look for extraterrestrial life. Closer to home, JAXA and NASA have imaged sky-light entrances to lava tube caves on the Moon more than 100 m in diameter and ESA has characterized the incredibly varied and complex terrain of Comet 67P. While JPL has successfully landed and operated four rovers on the surface of Mars using a 6-wheeled rocker-bogie architecture, future missions will require new mobility architectures for these extreme environments. Unfortunately, the highest value science targets often lie in the terrain that is hardest to access. This talk will explore robotic grippers that enable missions to these extreme terrains through their ability to grip a wide variety of surfaces (shapes, sizes, and geotechnical properties). To prepare for use in space where repair or replacement is not possible, we field-test these grippers and robots in analog extreme terrain on Earth. Many of these systems are enabled by advances in autonomy. The talk will present a rapid overview of my work and a detailed case study of an underactuated rock gripper for deflecting asteroids.
[ CMU ]
Rod Brooks gives some of the best robotics talks ever. He gave this one earlier this week at UC Berkeley, on “Steps Toward Super Intelligence and the Search for a New Path.”
[ UC Berkeley ] Continue reading
Video Friday is your weekly selection of awesome robotics videos, collected by your Automaton bloggers. We’ll also be posting a weekly calendar of upcoming robotics events for the next few months; here’s what we have so far (send us your events):
RSS 2019 – June 22-26, 2019 – Freiburg, Germany
Hamlyn Symposium on Medical Robotics – June 23-26, 2019 – London, U.K.
ETH Robotics Summer School – June 27-1, 2019 – Zurich, Switzerland
MARSS 2019 – July 1-5, 2019 – Helsinki, Finland
ICRES 2019 – July 29-30, 2019 – London, U.K.
Let us know if you have suggestions for next week, and enjoy today’s videos.
Last week at the re:MARS conference, Amazon CEO and aspiring supervillain Jeff Bezos tried out this pair of dexterous robotic hands, which he described as “weirdly natural” to operate. The system combines Shadow Robot’s anthropomorphic robot hands with SynTouch’s biomimetic tactile sensors and HaptX’s haptic feedback gloves.
After playing with the robot, Bezos let out his trademark evil laugh.
[ Shadow Robot ]
The RoboMaster S1 is DJI’s advanced new educational robot that opens the door to limitless learning and entertainment. Develop programming skills, get familiar with AI technology, and enjoy thrilling FPV driving with games and competition. From young learners to tech enthusiasts, get ready to discover endless possibilities with the RoboMaster S1.
[ DJI ]
It’s very impressive to see DLR’s humanoid robot Toro dynamically balancing, even while being handed heavy objects, pushing things, and using multi-contact techniques to kick a fire extinguisher for some reason.
The paper is in RA-L, and you can find it at the link below.
[ RA-L ] via [ DLR ]
Is it just me, or does the Suzumori Endo Robotics Laboratory’s Super Dragon arm somehow just keep getting longer?
Suzumori Endo Lab, Tokyo Tech developed a 10 m-long articulated manipulator for investigation inside the primary containment vessel of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plants. We employed a coupled tendon-driven mechanism and a gravity compensation mechanism using synthetic fiber ropes to design a lightweight and slender articulated manipulator. This work was published in IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters and Transactions of the JSME.
[ Suzumori Endo Lab ]
From what I can make out thanks to Google Translate, this cute little robot duck (developed by Nissan) helps minimize weeds in rice fields by stirring up the water.
[ Nippon.com ]
Confidence in your robot is when you can just casually throw it off of a balcony 15 meters up.
[ SUTD ]
You had me at “we’re going to completely submerge this apple in chocolate syrup.”
[ Soft Robotics Inc ]
In the mid 2020s, the European Space Agency is planning on sending a robotic sample return mission to the Moon. It’s called Heracles, after the noted snake-strangler of Greek mythology.
[ ESA ]
Rethink Robotics is still around, they’re just much more German than before. And Sawyer is still hard at work stealing jobs from humans.
[ Rethink Robotics ]
The reason to watch this new video of the Ghost Robotics Vision 60 quadruped is for the 3 seconds worth of barrel roll about 40 seconds in.
[ Ghost Robotics ]
This is a relatively low-altitude drop for Squishy Robotics’ tensegrity scout, but it still cool to watch a robot that’s resilient enough to be able to fall and just not worry about it.
[ Squishy Robotics ]
We control here the Apptronik DRACO bipedal robot for unsupported dynamic locomotion. DRACO consists of a 10 DoF lower body with liquid cooled viscoelastic actuators to reduce weight, increase payload, and achieve fast dynamic walking. Control and walking algorithms are designed by UT HCRL Laboratory.
I think all robot videos should be required to start with two “oops” clips followed by a “for real now” clip.
[ Apptronik ]
SAKE’s EZGripper manages to pick up a wrench, and also pick up a raspberry without turning it into instajam.
[ SAKE Robotics ]
And now: the robotic long-tongued piggy, courtesy Sony Toio.
[ Toio ]
In this video the ornithopter developed inside the ERC Advanced Grant GRIFFIN project performs its first flight. This projects aims to develop a flapping wing system with manipulation and human interaction capabilities.
A flapping-wing system with manipulation and human interaction capabilities, you say? I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.
[ GRVC ]
KITECH’s robotic hands and arms can manipulate, among other things, five boxes of Elmos. I’m not sure about the conversion of Elmos to Snuffleupaguses, although it turns out that one Snuffleupagus is exactly 1,000 pounds.
[ Ji-Hun Bae ]
The Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) has been working on agricultural robots for almost a decade, and this video sums up a bunch of the stuff that they’ve been doing, even if it’s more amusing than practical at times.
[ ACFR ]
ROS 2 is great for multi-robot coordination, like when you need your bubble level to stay really, really level.
[ Acutronic Robotics ]
We don’t hear iRobot CEO Colin Angle give a lot of talks, so this recent one (from Amazon’s re:MARS conference) is definitely worth a listen, especially considering how much innovation we’ve seen from iRobot recently.
Colin Angle, founder and CEO of iRobot, has unveil a series of breakthrough innovations in home robots from iRobot. For the first time on stage, he will discuss and demonstrate what it takes to build a truly intelligent system of robots that work together to accomplish more within the home – and enable that home, and the devices within it, to work together as one.
[ iRobot ]
In the latest episode of Robots in Depth, Per speaks with Federico Pecora from the Center for Applied Autonomous Sensor Systems at Örebro University in Sweden.
Federico talks about working on AI and service robotics. In this area he has worked on planning, especially focusing on why a particular goal is the one that the robot should work on. To make robots as useful and user friendly as possible, he works on inferring the goal from the robot’s environment so that the user does not have to tell the robot everything.
Federico has also worked with AI robotics planning in industry to optimize results. Managing the relative importance of tasks is another challenging area there. In this context, he works on automating not only a single robot for its goal, but an entire fleet of robots for their collective goal. We get to hear about how these techniques are being used in warehouse operations, in mines and in agriculture.
[ Robots in Depth ] Continue reading